ROSALES -- Local officials in Pangasinan slammed Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap for the woes of the farmers whose crops were destroyed during Typhoon Pepeng.

Fifth district Representative Mark Cojuangco could no longer contain his disgust to the insensitivity of the Department of Agriculture (DA) leadership to the problems of the Pangasinense farmers.

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The National Government has allotted P12 billion emergency assistance fund for the rehabilitation of damages to infrastructure and for financial assistance to farmers whose crops were damaged by Typhoon Pepeng.

Up to this day, farmers in Pangasinan are yet to receive the seed and fertilizer assistance earlier promised by the DA.

“Ang problema si Secretary Arthur Yap, bagamat masipag at magaling na office manager, hindi siya farmer. Wala siyang background sa farming at hindi niya alam yong problema at practicality ng farming,” he expressed.

“Yong mga decisions niya are based on office decision, not based on seed condition. Kaya sana makinig siya sa amin. Hindi kami kontento sa mga nangyayaring aksyon niya as far as typhoon Pepeng is concerned,” Cojuangco remarked.

“As Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, he should take the lead in lobbying with President Arroyo and to the committee created by the president to disperse the P12 billion assistance fund,” he further said.

Cojuangco and Abono Partylist Chairman Rosendo So pointed out that the affected farmers should get full replacement of the capital on their crops destroyed by flood caused by Typhoon Pepeng.

“The cities in Metro Manila affected by the typhoons have the capability to rehabilitate their damages. But our towns in the province could not afford it, saan namin kukunin ang pondo. My appeal is that a big portion of the P12 billion should be given to Pangasinan. And that they should stop cutting the number/area of hectarage of beneficiaries,” he said.

“Parang, napinsala na nga kayo, tinatawaran pa kayo. Manhid pa sila sa nangyayari sa probinsya,” he added.

Changing policies

The farmers were earlier promised that seed and fertilizer assistance (a certain proportion per hectare) will be given to typhoon-affected farmers.

As contained in the December 9, 2009 Memorandum of Secretary Yap, “fertilizer assistance will be given for rice areas with no chance of recovery caused by tropical storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng.”

But the fertilizer assistance is good only for master listed typhoon-affected farmers who have planted from October 1, 2009 to March 15, 2010. The reimbursement of the farmers' fertilizer purchases shall last until May 15, 2010. A problem delayed the distribution.

In his letter to So, dated January 7, 2010, DA-Ilocos Director Cipriano Santiago said: “The initial scheme of providing the fertilizer that is in kind did not push through.”

He reasoned that for the inorganic fertilizer, the contract between the DA and the winning bidder was not signed because the supplier backed out. On the other hand, there was no participating bidder for the urea.

Santiago said the new scheme now is for the master listed farmers to just buy the required fertilizer and present their official receipt or sales/invoice to their respective municipal or city agriculture officer (MAO/CAO).

In turn, the MAO will present said receipt to DA-Ilocos for reimbursement.

So said one problem is that the affected farmers don't have money to buy fertilizer. These farmers meanwhile should also be allowed to buy from accredited fertilizer.

Cojuangco and So raised a howl after Pangasinan Supervising Agriculturist Nestor Batalla reported at the conference that the original 26,000 hectares of affected crops was greatly reduced to just above 10,000 hectares.

He said after the validation conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, DA, in coordination with the local government units concerned, the hectarage of damage rice lands was reduced to 12,300 hectares.

The final master listed damaged crops is 10,593. Batalla said the beneficiaries are those who will be planting rice this second crop season. Accordingly, they were told that the assistance to be given to the other farmers will depend on what crops they will be planting.

Cojuangco said this should not be the case.

“Lahat sila dapat may replacement capital. The farmers should get full replacement of the capital of the crops destroyed by Pepeng,” he stressed.

So expressed sadness that despite the fact that Yap traces his roots in Pangasinan, the province got smaller allotment despite the gravity of area of destroyed crops as compared to Tarlac province which, accordingly, got a bigger budget.